Beyond Aid, January 15

In the latest news and analysis…

Operation Serval
Liberté Algérie’s Mounir Boudjema writes that the name of the French military action in Mali is apt, given that its namesake is a cat that “urinates 30 times an hour to mark its territory“:

“Despite the French president’s semantic precautions and the language used to legitimize a military intervention that will have terrible consequences for the sub-region, François Hollande has shown that he cannot alter the reality of ‘la Françafrique.’ When French interests are threatened in Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Chad, Gabon, Central African Republic…), Paris dusts off its policeman’s uniform and sends in its helicopters.  Protecting Niger’s uranium reserves is worth the sacrifice of military expenses, even in the midst of an economic crisis. It’s too early to speculate on the outcome of this inevitable military intervention. It’s all a question of timing. But two things are sure to happen. First, a humanitarian crisis in the Sahel with huge numbers of displaced people. Then, France’s action will unite the terrorist groups, since jihadists from around the world will descend on Mali to give a hand to their brothers in arms.” [Translated from the French.]

Beyond nation states
New York University’s Manthia Diawara suggests that perhaps restoring Mali to its pre-coup form may not be as desirable a goal as the international community seems to think:

“Why are we so attached to a nation state that can only be preserved for us by others. If the nation and nationalism were useful for Africa at one time, it was to do away with the colonial yoke that reduced us to subhumans. If after 50 years of independence Westerners have to come to save our nation states, or to protect us from dictators, or to teach us democracy, maybe it’s time to start rethinking, to imagine other systems of communal living than those offered by nation states.
If we cannot protect the rights of minorities inside our nation states, why not ask questions about the existence of these nation states. Why keep on keeping men and women like prisoners within the nation, if it cannot satisfy their basic needs for freedom of movement and expression, the right to work, to education and to health?” [Translated from the French.]

Hear no evil
A new Human Rights Watch report accuses a Canadian mining company of doing too little to prevent forced labour at its gold mine in Eritrea:

“The Bisha project, majority owned and operated by the small Canadian firm Nevsun Resources, is Eritrea’s first and so far only operational mine. It began gold production in 2011 and produced some $614 million worth of ore in its first year.
Other large projects led by Canadian, Australian, and Chinese firms are in the pipeline, however. Numerous exploration firms are scouring other leases for new prospects.

Human Rights Watch interviewed several Eritreans who worked at Bisha during its initial construction phase. Some said they were deployed there as conscript laborers by [state-owned construction firm] Segen. They described terrible living conditions and forced labor at paltry wages. One former conscript said that he had been arrested and imprisoned for several months after leaving the work site to attend a relative’s funeral.”

Land morality
Princeton University’s Peter Singer explores the ethics of investors from wealthy nations buying up agricultural land in countries that are, on average, four times poorer:

“But, given the pressures of poverty and the lure of cash, what does it take for people to be able to make a genuinely free and informed choice about selling something as significant as a right to land? After all, we do not allow poor people to sell their kidneys to the highest bidder.
Of course, hardline supporters of free markets will say that we should. But, at the very least, it needs to be explained why people should be prohibited from selling kidneys, but not from selling the land that grows their food. Most people can live without one kidney. No one can live without food.
Why does the purchase of body parts give rise to international condemnation, while the purchase of agricultural land does not – even when it involves evicting local landholders and producing food for export to rich countries instead of for local consumption?”

Bad law
The Canadian Press reports that a Canadian judge has struck down the country’s human smuggling law, calling it “unnecessarily broad“:

“[British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Arne Silverman] said the result could lead to the prosecution of people like humanitarian workers.
As the law stood, a human smuggler was defined as anyone who might ‘knowingly organize, induce, aid or abet’ someone coming to Canada who does not have a visa, passport or other required documentation.
The judge declared section 117 of the act to be of no force or effect, saying federal politicians now need to fill the legislative gap.”

More fish
Fish Information & Services reports that the head of the European Parliament fisheries committee plans to recommend that a proposed EU-Mauritania fishing agreement be rejected for being “insufficient in terms of fishing opportunities”:

“The MEP insisted on that the current agreement “is not profitable” because it is expensive for the fishing opportunities and the conditions it establishes.
He also claimed that the agreement will allow no access to the cephalopod fleet with no biological reason to justify it.
Therefore, 32 vessels, of which 24 are Spanish and based in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, have run out of ground to fish.
He also criticized the restriction of fishing areas for all fleets, including the pelagic one, which will mean a drastic reduction in catches.”

Legal lag
US congressman Keith Ellison argues America’s use of drones is dangerous first and foremost because “our technological capability has far surpassed our policy”:

“No country — not even our allies — accepts the U.S. legal justification for targeted killings. Our justification must rest on the concept of self-defense, which would allow the United States to protect itself against any imminent threat. Any broader criteria would create the opportunity for abuse and set a dangerous standard for other countries to follow, which could harm long-term U.S. security interests.

A just, internationally accepted protocol on the use of drones in warfare is needed.”

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